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General Benjamin Adekunle 'Black Scorpion' Dies At 78

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Retired General Benjamin Adekunle, popularly known as 'Black Scorpion' is dead. He was aged 78.

According to his wife, Folake, he died on Saturday morning (13 September) in Lagos.

In the history of the Nigerian Army, and indeed that of Nigeria, the name Benjamin Adesanya Maja Adekunle shines like a star. His exploits are all too well known.

His activities as the commander of the 35,000 strong Third Marine Commando (3MC) earned him a chip as one of the most popular military commanders during the thirty month Nigeria civil war, apart from Obasanjo, who succeeded him and brought the war to an end with the same 3MC.

That 'Black Scorpion' was the most controversial, celebrated and mythologized figure in the war is a statement of fact. 

"I did not want this war, but I want to win this war", he was quoted as saying.

A native of Ogbomoso in modern day Oyo state, Brigadier Adekunle was born in Kaduna on June 26,1936 to an Ogbomoso father, and Amina Theodora, a Bachana mother. Adekunle had his primary and secondary school education at Zaria and Okene respectively.

General Adekunle's destiny with the Nigerian Army began in 1957, shortly after his school certificate examination. Despite his small size, he easily impressed the recruiting team.

"The first hurdle in my chosen career was the stiff entrance examination. At the succeeding interview, numerous white-headed expatriate military officers gave me the grilling of my life. The Nigerian Army was then in its infancy and placed every conceivable impediment to dissuade aspirants from making the army a career. These obstacles did not daunt me. We were even made to undergo physical exercise. I found these exercises hilarious. I was given size 12 boots (I take a size 6); and oversized clothing. For a joke, I put them on and appeared at the venue to the vast amusement of the other boys. Notwithstanding my deficiency in size, the Army accepted me".

And that marked the beginning of a glorious career in the military in which he not only distinguished himself, but also rose to the pinnacle.

According to his biography, The Nigeria-Biafra letters; A Soldier's Story, Colonel Adekunle did not think the name "3 Infantry Division" was sensational enough nor did it project the nature of the unique terrain in which his men had to fight. And so, without formal approval from Army Headquarters, he renamed the division, the 3 Marine Commando (3MCDO).

The Black Scorpion won the admiration of his men in and out of battle. Many of those alive today remember him for his active participation beyond the war planning room. Many woukd easily agree that he was a "dogged" fighter. And his achievements during the war singled him out as the most mythologized military figure in Nigeria's history.

He was promoted in 1972 to Brigadier. After the war, Adekunle was put in charge of decongesting the Lagos port that had problems with clearing imported goods. He held the position until he was compulsory retired on August 20, 1974.

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